There was plenty to like about England’s 2-1 friendly win over Switzerland. Firstly there was the cause, with the game being played in association with the Alzheimer’s Society. The team played the second half without names on their shirts to raise awareness of the effects of dementia. Then there was the breakout display of Conor Gallagher, who was an endlessly exciting presence. There was also a piece of history, as Harry Kane’s late penalty took him level with Sir Bobby Charlton for second place in the England goalscoring charts. Most of all though, Gareth Southgate will relish a win on a tricky evening for his side.
The excitement was palpable inside Wembley when Conor Gallagher touched the ball. The on-loan Crystal Palace midfielder received an early pass from Harry Kane, and there was anticipation as he curled his shot towards goal. Silvan Widmer headed it clear, denying England a star-making turn.
Gareth Southgate’s men had the best of the early going, passing through the thirds well. A cutting edge was lacking though, and they carved out few clear-cut chances. This shot-shyness was punished soon enough.
Granit Xhaka drew a good save from Jordan Pickford with a long-range strike. England could not clear their lines to relieve the pressure, and after a sustained and patient attack they faltered. Xherdan Shaqiri floated a superb ball over for Breel Embolo, who out-jumped Ben White to head it home.
A slick passing move promised much, as Phil Foden played in Kyle Walker-Peters. The England debutant hit the post, but it wouldn’t have counted as the offside flag went up. Still, it was a well-executed attacking phase that promised much for England.
Shaqiri hit the post from a corner, and the ball found Ricardo Rodriguez. The left-back tested Pickford before Embolo dragged the rebound wide.
England finally broke through just before half-time. Walker-Peters’ clever interception high on the right fell to Gallagher, who passed across the box. Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount cleverly let the ball run across him, and Luke Shaw lashed it in from the left hand side of the box. The goal brought to mind the Manchester United left-back’s strike in the Euro 2020 final, when we all dreamt for just a little while.
Luke Shaw equalises for England vs Switzerland just before half-time! 🏴
Gallagher’s influence continued in the second half. England’s number 7 lifted a beautiful ball into the path of Harry Kane, but Jonas Omlin closed him down well to make the save. There were still nervy moments for England though. There were murmurs when Shaqiri lined up another corner, but this time rather than striking the woodwork the ex-Liverpool star flashed it over his teammates.
The deck-shuffling began on the hour. Walker-Peters, goalscorer Shaw and the exciting Gallagher were removed, replaced by debutant Tyrick Mitchell, Declan Rice and Raheem Sterling. Jack Grealish came on for Mount, and got a tremendous reception. These sorts of widespread changes are commonplace in international friendlies, but it says a lot about England’s rude health that they were able to bring on three players who could arguably start for this side.
The widespread changes, reciprocated by another four substitutions in the Switzerland camp, left the game struggling to regain its momentum. Its the double-edged sword of international friendlies. A manager wants to get a good look at as many players as possible, but it is often at the cost of the game as a contest.
Ben White, a late addition to the line-up when John Stones was injured in the warm-up, arrowed a shot over the bar. It was the sort of shot that may have seen him scolded in a competitive game, but all’s fair in love and friendlies.
A penalty check injected a little late drama, as there were whispers of a Steven Zuber handball from an England corner. The match official was called over to review the screen, the unofficial sign that a spot kick will almost certainly be given. Kane dispatched the spot kick to score England’s 100th penalty goal. The strike also put the Tottenham Hotspur forward level with Bobby Charlton on 49 England goals. Kane only has Wayne Rooney’s record 53 goals to beat now.
Overall this was a case of mission accomplished for Southgate and his side. The encounter was more competitive than a lot of friendlies, and provided an opportunity for young talent like Gallagher, the debuting duo of Walker-Peters and Marc Guehi to impress. There was a special moment for Kane, and a good cause at the heart of the game. An England victory will have made this Saturday evening all the sweeter for the England manager.